SHAKING UP THE HANDSHAKE IN SPORTS
From most accounts it dates back to ancient Greece, as most things seem to do. It was especially important in the Knights of the Round Table time to do this and show there were no weapons in their hand. It is widely believe that Sir Walter Raleigh brought this custom to the new land in the late 16th Century, probably introducing it to the stunned Native Americans.
It is a friendship, sportsmanship and general ‘I mean you no harm or have anything up my sleeve,’ gesture.
It’s the handshake. Perhaps your dad told you to do it firmly and look the person in the eye as the hands touch. It’s a respect thing.
Boxers and MMA fighters do it still by touching gloves, a courtesy, and a sign of respect. ‘I am going to try to hurt you as much as possible in these next few minutes but it doesn’t mean I disrespect you or hate you.’ It goes back to the Marquess of Queensberry, a.k.a. John Douglas, who did not come up with the famous, standard rules of boxing but endorsed them. And as it was and is in England, having a title gives one power to take credit for ideas. They were actually written by Welshman John Graham Chambers.
There was a time in boxing when “shake hands and come out fighting” really meant something. In the ultra-tough era of bare knuckles brawlers like John Corbett, John L. Sullivan, Jack Johnson, not having anything but a palm in one’s hand was critical in knowing before the fight started.
But what in the wide, wide world of sports is going on with what used to be such a simple act? Lately football is making MMA look like the tamest, most gentlemanly of endeavors. Two guys can’t simply congratulate the other after an intense contest.
Maybe that’s what we’ve become as a society. Honestly, I have long felt the perfunctory shaking of hands after a sporting contest is a recipe for disaster and am pleasantly surprised that all out brawls haven’t ensued from what looks like on the surface a noble deed. After all right after the heat of battle, thoughts of why we didn’t do this or that from the loser, look what we’ve done from the winner, has all the ingredients of anger, confusion, heartbreak and exaltation mixed in.
On second thought maybe this speaks well of us as a society. The simple handshake still matters, at least to the athletes. Men do hug more now than ever, an acceptable practice of friendship. MMA like Hollywood has a lot of huggers, and that’s a welcomed addition in the showing of appreciation for the other. Hugging might be easier than handshaking, at least more sincere. Ever get that limp noodle, that cold fish shake? That’s more disrespectful than none at all.
Over the weekend, two separate incidents where coaches had to be separated, show the older we get the less control of composer seems to occur. Saturday after the Vanderbilt-Georgia football game, Commodores coach James Franklin had more than a few choice words to say to Bulldogs defensive coordinator Todd Grantham during this post game ritual. On a much bigger scale in the NFL 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh added a slap on the back to his handshake with Lions coach Jim Schwartz prompting the Detroit head man to chase the San Francisco coach down the field, where it took players and public relations men to keep them apart.
How civil the combative sports are beginning to look, well aside from the Strikeforce debacle in Nashville and a few other boxing aftermaths, okay, it just happens. There is the macho element, the simply disgusted element, and the excessive ego element; there are too many variables with too many issues to break it all down.
It just isn’t like the old days, because few things are, and the ability to communicate in a sportsman like fashion is leaving town faster than the Edsel, the dial up phone, and actually holding a book in your hand while you read.
Maybe if the ancient Greeks could have texted each other, dropped an email after an event we would have never shaken hands. Maybe that’s what sports might be coming to now. “CYA ” “CT” “GGLOL” “WTF” “THX” “WP” “WTG” “WDYM” but probably not “WNTT &SH.”
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